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Embracing Change: Unveiling the Exciting Journey of Team Topographies in Software QA

Every week is an interesting week working in the software QA industry. This week was no different. Despite all the recent fourth generation advances in our world, software development is still a human-led process, so we get to work with many different personalities and experience many different approaches to ways of working as a result.

Differences are always opportunities for learning, so the highlight of this particular Qlogger’s week had to be our opportunity to work with a client on their approach to their team topographies as their company scales up. Every company is unique, so every approach to how one structures a team is going to be a unique and learning experience- these are the experiences I am most thankful for, the opportunity to be a part of this journey and to learn from their experiences.

We conducted a Software-Quality Maturity Assessment a couple of months ago for a new client; one of the common things to come out of these maturity assessments is that team structure can be fundamental to a great deal of process or maturity issues. According to Melvin Conway (Conway’s Law) “Organisations, who design systems, are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organisations”, and each organization has a bunch of unique personalities, with unique relationships to one another, who communicate uniquely- such an interesting (and sometimes challenging) landscape for any leader of an organization. So it was with a great deal of enthusiasm that we approached the chance to work with the key stakeholders of the organization as they tried to plot the way forward with their new team structures.

This week we were invited to be part of the team topography workshop. The team worked incredibly well together to try to define their future-state, and I know that they will get this one in the bag as long as they truly adopt the fundamental crux of agile- everything is always in a state of flux and change is inevitable. How you adapt and adjust to the change is the big challenge. Making sure that a change in culture underpins this whole restructuring journey is the biggest hurdle. Your workforce needs to adopt the attitude of “ok, let’s give this thing a bash” but they need to know that failure is probably a given and that this failure is acceptable and not mission critical. Failure allows us to readjust, to learn from our mistakes and do things in a better way. So “Don’t be afraid to fail, but please can you do it quickly😊”. And then there is also the concept that you fail and succeed as a team, so it really is important to make the change to cross-functional teaming to avoid handoffs, gaps in communication and ensure everyone is on the same page at project inception. This was a big change for our client but one that the team all seemed to welcome- getting involved up front and doing it together.

The challenge is always determining what the different teams will be responsible for and who will make up these teams- Wardley mapping (this reveals how we think capabilities fit together to meet real needs in the market) is a great technique to assist with this. Inevitably these structures will go through a number of variations as the team learns learn what works for them and what doesn’t. At least in the case of our client there are common goals and common attitudes, everyone wants to do things differently and wants to do the right thing, and in this case attitude means everything. Thus far, we are really enjoying being a part of the journey, thank you for the opportunity!

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